Leicester City left it late to snatch a point at West Ham on Saturday afternoon. The Foxes trailed twice through goals by Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez for the Hammers, but were twice able to level thanks to goals from Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes. There was some controversy as a Perez goal was chalked off for offside moments before Barnes leveled for the Foxes in injury time.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the lineup that started against Newcastle last Friday, dropping Harvey Barnes and Wes Morgan in favor of Marc Albrighton and Jonny Evans. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal with a defensive line comprised of Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi played the holding role behind a four-man midfield of Demarai Gray, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Albrighton. Jamie Vardy plowed a lone furrow as the sole striker.
The first twenty minutes or so of the match lacked anything in the way of notable football. The Hammers bossed possession, which is usually a good sign for Leicester, but we saw nothing but over-hit pass after over-hit pass. Meanwhile, the hosts moved the ball around smartly but couldn’t find anything resembling a final product.
It was not especially good football.
In fact, the most notable incident of the opening quarter of the match was Michail Antonio going down as if he’d been mugged after a shove (and probably a foul) from Ndidi. He rolled around for some time and got up to beef with the ref, who was unmoved. So unmoved, in fact, that when Maguire did exactly the same thing to Antonio he again chose not to blow his whistle (when he probably ought to have done). This prompted the former Forest winger to roll and moan on the pitch for a full minute before the ball was knocked out of play.
In the meantime, the Foxes were finally starting to see a little more of the ball, but were similarly struggling to make an impact, with a couple of long shots from Madders fired directly at the keeper. Perhaps inspired by the highlights of Robert Huth scoring from a training ground move, Leicester tried an elaborate routine that didn’t exactly come off. The corner was played back to Tielemans, who didn’t seem to be expecting it. He retreated and recover well enough to slot it in to Madders, whose cross seemed to catch every player in a blue shirt by surprise, so it soared unmet across the face of the goal.
This is what they were aiming for. I’ll spare you by not linking today’s effort.
The game was in dire need of a goal, and it got a dire one on 38’. A simple one-two on the right took beat Ricardo too easily. Mark Noble was allowed to cross under no pressure at all, setting an outswinger on a plate for Antonio. The winger outjumped Chilwell and planted a header at beat Schmeichel from a good 10 yards out, giving the Hammers a just barely-deserved lead.
Leicester made a game effort to level it before the half. Albrighton was finding joy down the right and was twice just inches from delivering the perfect cross, but alas, in both cases perfection was required and the chances were lost. The half ended with West Ham on top, 1-0.
Leicester started the second period somewhat more brightly than the first. They were seeing more of the ball and getting the ball out of their own area more successfully. They weren’t so much “turning the screw” as “understanding the basic concept of a screw and beginning to consider what one might do with one should one encounter it in the wild.” Nonetheless, it represented progress.
On the hour mark, Rodgers withdrew Albrighton who, for all his rust, looked our most-likely man to provide a goal, for Harvey Barnes. West Ham were beginning to look a little slow of foot and Leicester began to string some passes together deep in the Hammers’ half.
The equalizer came on 65’ minutes through an extended team move that found Chilwell in space on the left. His low cross to the near post left Vardy with a lot to do, but the former Fleetwood Town striker was up to the task, directing the ball inside the post.
The goal woke the Hammers from their torpor and they were soon back to providing all of the pressure. It was no surprise when they retook the lead, but the way in which they did so was shambolic. Pedro Obiang, unmarked at the top of the D, fired in a low shot that Schmeichel saw late. It caromed off of the post and fell to Lucas Perez, who was the only player not standing still. It would have been difficult to miss from that range, but unfortunately, he did the easy thing and tapped it into the back of the net.
Perez should have had a second when he latched on to a ball over the top. He got in behind the defense, rounded Schmeichel, and put the ball into the net, but the flag was up for offisde. Was it offside? Mmmmaybe? Would Schmeichel have made more of an effort to stop it had the flag not been up? Certainly.
Rodgers sent Kelechi Iheanacho on for Gray in a bid to find a late equalizer. Twice, the Nigerian hit man was just inches from getting his head on the end of a cross and restoring parity. It was, however, the other substitute who would get the Foxes back on level terms. Two minutes into injury time, Barnes ran on to a perfectly weighted pass from Tielemans. One-on-one with the keeper, he kept his cool and slotted the ball just inside the far post to give Leicester a second goal and what looked like a very unlikely draw.
You can argue as to whether or not we deserved it, but at the end of the day, it’s a point. You take the point away from home when you aren’t at your best. Rodgers gets a lot of grief for praising his team’s “character” but he wouldn’t be wrong in saying it this time. We weren’t especially good, but we worked hard and dug out a point. Job done.
City struggled to find their rhythm against a surprisingly-effective West Ham press and, as such, there were few consistently outstanding performances. Ndidi and Richardo both put in terrific shifts, but today? Let’s just call out the goal scorers Barnes and Vardy and bonus points for Chilwell for showing what can happen when he puts in a nice cross.
The bad news is that this really was a must-win affair if we were going to make a run at the final Europa League spot. The draw drops us to 8th on the table behind Watford and level with Wolves, both of whom have a game in hand on us. We have 48 points from 35 matches, but our remaining fixtures are daunting. We host Arsenal a week from Monday, travel to face Manchester City the following Saturday, and then close out the season against Chelsea at the King Power.